SPORTS

Joe Moore Award is everything that is Iowa football

No one has influenced Iowa more than the legendary offensive line coach


The Joe Moore Award, given annually to the most outstanding offensive line unit in college football. The award, in its second year, is named after Joe Moore, widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football history, primarily coaching at Pitt from 1977-1985 and Notre Dame from 1988-1996. It is the only major college football award to honor a unit.
The Joe Moore Award, given annually to the most outstanding offensive line unit in college football. The award, in its second year, is named after Joe Moore, widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football history, primarily coaching at Pitt from 1977-1985 and Notre Dame from 1988-1996. It is the only major college football award to honor a unit.

IOWA CITY — Iowa was going to win the Joe Moore Award. It was bound to happen at some point. One way or another. The former Upper St. Clair (Pa.) linebacker was going to be a part of a team that won the award named in honor of his former high school coach.

The Hawkeyes’ offensive line was named the 2016 winner of the Moore Award on Dec. 9. The award, which comes with a trophy that weighs 350 pounds and that will be on display at Iowa until the 2017 winner is announced, is named after Joe Moore, a legendary college football offensive line coach. It’s also the only major college football award to honor a unit of players.

Iowa, Alabama and Ohio State were the finalists. Yes, Alabama and Ohio State are in the College Football Playoffs and Iowa is headed to the Outback Bowl. There’s no debate on which teams had the more successful seasons. Iowa rode a strong finish to the trophy.

Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle

“The voting was intensely close this year and Iowa and Alabama were neck-and-neck until the very end of the voting period,” said Aaron Taylor, CBS Sports college football analyst and chairman of the Joe Moore Award voting committee. “Ultimately, while the other units may have had a few standout individual players, many of the voters felt Iowa personified the fundamental principle that drives this award: Teamwork. Iowa excelled in that this season.”

Maybe the Hawkeyes, who finished second to Alabama for the inaugural Moore Award last year, were a sentimental favorite for the Joe Moore Award. Maybe they always will be.

Moore coached Ferentz during his senior season at Upper St. Clair. When he was offensive line coach at Pitt in 1980, Moore brought Ferentz in as a graduate assistant.

Moore might’ve had a little something to do with Ferentz landing the O-line position under Hayden Fry in 1981.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“He basically talked Coach Fry into hiring me on the phone,” Ferentz said Thursday. “Unless I fell asleep in the interview, I had a really good chance of getting the job.”

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that, essentially, Joe Moore is at the foundation of what Iowa is in Ferentz’s 18 seasons as head coach (27th) overall.

In one case, literally the foundation.

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle also is a Moore disciple. He served under Moore as a graduate assistant on the offensive line at Notre Dame in 1991. After that season, Doyle became offensive line coach at Holy Cross.

Before Doyle left for that job, Moore wanted him to visit Ferentz, who since had become head coach at Maine. On his first day at the Worcester, Ma., school, Doyle got in his car and drove to Orono, Maine.

“He’s the head football coach and has a lot on his plate,” Doyle said. “He dropped everything and got in the staff room and spent the better part of the day with me as a young line coach. That was the first time I met Kirk.”

Hlas: Chris Doyle's favorite muscle is the brain

Ferentz was hired at Iowa in December 1998. He talked with Moore about important hires and immediately focused on strength and conditioning.

During his conversation with Moore on the topic, Ferentz took notes. You already know he’s a meticulous note taker. You still see him doing it on the sidelines 18 years in as Iowa’s head coach.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Ferentz gave those notes, which included a few drawings, to Doyle when he hired him. That sheet of paper has been hanging in Doyle’s “downstairs” office, in the Jacobson Athletic Building and now the Hansen Performance Center, for the last 18 years.

Iowa OL coach Brian Ferentz

“I feel obligated to make sure I’m that guy Joe said that I would be,” Doyle said. “I’ve hung that up and I’ve carried that from that building to this building. It’s on the wall. It’s a reminder of your background, where you come from, who you’re obligated to. And I feel obligated to Joe.”

Moore died of lung cancer in 2003, when Brian Ferentz, Kirk’s son and Iowa’s current O-line coach, was a sophomore center at Iowa.

“Brian’s name is Brian Joseph, so he was always Joseph when Coach Moore talked to him. Brian didn’t exist. It was always Joseph,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I got Coach Moore hired, actually, as a consultant in Baltimore after he retired from Notre Dame. He finished his career there and he was coaching up in Erie (Pa.) a little bit.

“He came down to camp, and he would take Brian back to Erie and drive him around and show him the neighborhoods and all that and show him this is real America. He gave Brian a lot of lectures and life lessons. I think he’d be really proud of a good moment for him.”

Brian Ferentz said what has become fairly obvious if you’ve followed how Iowa football has worked during these 18 years.

“Even this building, the facilities here, the team here, everything that’s been built here since 1999, Coach Moore’s fingerprints are all over that,” Brian said. “To receive the award that bears his name, it’s very humbling and a tremendous honor for our players. They earned it.”

Brian swung the conversation to the highs and lows of the season, specifically for the offensive line. His first stop was the North Dakota State game, when Iowa was held to 34 rushing yards, its lowest output in 35 games.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

That game happened to be sophomore guard Keegan Render’s first start. He made his seventh career start against Nebraska in the season finale, when the Hawkeyes rushed for 264 yards and won 40-10.

“I think Keegan is a microcosm of our offensive line, which is a microcosm of our football team this year,” Brian said. “There were bumps in the road. There were times when things weren’t going well. Any time you face adversity, it’s how you respond. Keegan had rough patches along the way and he’s still not all the way there, but the guy shows up to work every day with a positive attitude and is working to get better.

“ ... To go from really being the sixth man to being the third man at some points in the year, I thought he handled that very well.”

Iowa started seven different lineups at O-line this season. It had the same lineup in back-to-back games just twice. No O-lineman started every game. If running back Akrum Wadley gains 34 yards in the Outback Bowl against Florida, the No. 6 defense in the country, Iowa will have two 1,000-yard rushers in a season for the first time in school history.

There was that one time at Purdue when Iowa called timeout because it wanted to get redshirt freshman Levi Paulsen off the field and junior Sean Welsh back on. Welsh had lost his helmet, so the only way he could be on the field for the next play was if Iowa called a timeout.

With a huge lead at Purdue, Iowa could afford that timeout. Four weeks later against then-No. 3 Michigan, Paulsen was the last healthy lineman and found himself in the game for the last series after junior tackle Ike Boettger suffered an ankle injury.

“He’s the only guy left, ‘Levi, you’re in. Go get ’em, you’re going to be great. Forget about that timeout we called a couple of weeks ago. You’re going to kill these guys,’” Brian Ferentz said with a laugh. “He’d be the first one to tell you his head was spinning. He was just trying to figure out where to line up.”

Paulsen started the next week at Illinois. The biggest concern Brian Ferentz had was how he was going to hold up in one-on-one pass protection.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“By the fourth third down of that game, it was hard to hide him,” Brian said. “He had to block a guy and he blocked the heck out of him.”

Yes, Alabama and Ohio State could end up playing for the national title. But did they have to spin as many plates as Iowa’s O-line did this season?

You can argue this among yourselves. Kirk Ferentz, Chris Doyle and Brian Ferentz will be dead lifting the 350-pound Joe Moore Award trophy into the Hansen Center. They’ll probably trade a few words of wisdom from their mentor, whose reach into the Iowa program can be found on an 18-year-old scrap of notes hanging on a wall in Iowa’s weight facility.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.